COMMENT by Edwin Cluer

Stepping up the Campaign

It is often said that history repeats itself, so I thought ‘We have a history book, let’s have a look.’ The following are quotes from The Outline of History by H.G.Wells, published in 1920.

I am filled with amazement, a sense of urgency and energy. Great words which could have been written today! The world following the first World War did not learn the lessons of history.

I myself made the mistake at the end of the Cold War of assuming that superpower conflict and tension had diminished. I felt I could relax somewhat and the rest of the world would learn the lessons of the Cold War and Nuclear arms race and more or less sort itself out.

However I now feel that the peace movement has to work harder than ever before. I keep feeling that something new, much bigger or both is needed. We have to ask ourselves some hard questions. Are we doing enough? How effective is our campaign? Will the next anti-war demonstration be smaller because I didn’t bother to keep the date free and go on it? Remember that it’s impossible to doubt the sincerity of a diverse and large demo. Have we all taken the easy step of informing our M.P. who supported military action in Iraq that we will not vote for him in the next general election and why? What can we do to disentangle the money system from the military-industrial science complex system? What work will be most effective if done now to prevent yet more armed conflict?

I hope I have inspired someone to be more active. P.S. Motto to work by: ‘do something or donate something every day!’

Ministry for Peace

The co-founder of this relatively new initiative, Diana Basterfield, was an impressive speaker at the Movement for the Abolition of War AGM in November. “The Ministry of Peace is a voluntary organisation that is actively working for a Ministry of Peace within government and an independent Commission for Peace. Once established, their joint purpose would be to implement in all areas of UK government and society the Programme of Action outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration of a Culture of Peace, passed unanimously by the UN General Assembly and supported by the UK Government.”

Similar initiatives are being developed in the USA (Congressman Dennis Kucinich), Canada and Europe. A cross-party group of M.P.s sponsored a Ministry of Peace Bill under the 10 minute rule in October 2003 which was unopposed, but ran out of parliamentary time. Subsequently John Macdonald (M.P. for Hayes and Harlington) who is not a ‘peace movement regular’ has sponsored monthly meetings at the House (open to the public), and a conference is planned for April: “Britain’s Rôle in the 21st century: Peace Manager or War Monger?”

Diana suggested that her thinking is now moving in the direction of a Minister for Peace, rather than a Ministry. This she envisages as an individual in the centre of power liaising with Cabinet members in charge of education and skills, defence, employment etc. so that the Hague principles are kept on all these agendas. An interesting precedent was suggested from the floor during subsequent discussion: in the Wilson government a ‘minister for disabled people’ performed a similar cross-departmental rôle which anticipated all the modern access and disability legislation.

“Putting Peace into Power, Power into Peace” is the strapline on the MfP leaflet and further information can be obtained on or tel 07795 217701.

Report of the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change

In his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2003, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned member states that the UN had reached a fork in the road. He appointed a panel under a former Prime Minister of Thailand, Anand Panyarachun, as Chairman to generate new ideas about the kinds of policies and institutions the UN needs for the 21st century. The panel’s report, published in December 2004, set out a bold new vision of collective security to address six perceived clusters of threats: economic and social threats, including poverty, infectious disease & environmental degradation; inter-state conflict; internal conflict; nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons; terrorism; and transnational organised crime.

The interconnectedness of the threats is emphasised, as well as the mutual vulnerability of all states and peoples. ‘Many people believe that what passes for collective security today is simply a system for protecting the rich and powerful.... What is needed is nothing less than a new consensus... we all share responsibility for each other’s security. And the test of that consensus will be action.’

A series of four workshops organised by the United Nations Association will take place to discuss different sections of the report on Mondays in February: Feb 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th, 1pm at 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road (or bring a packed lunch at 12·30). RSVP or request further information from the presenter, Alison Williams (former UN Guide and Secretary of Merton UNA): 8944 0574 or <alison.williams8@bto...>

Sign Your Declaration for a Nuclear-Free World!

I do not accept that nuclear weapons can defend me, my country or the values I stand for...

This is not a petition but a personal commitment intended to contribute towards the development of international law and a nuclear-free world. If you have already signed, please pass on to a neighbour, colleague, relative or friend. (The donations generated via these declarations have already helped to set up Abolition 2000 (Europe), paying the salary of Pol D’Huyvetter of ‘For Mother Earth’ in Belgium to work for one day a week to develop effective communication between individuals and groups working for the abolition of nuclear weapons within Europe and worldwide.)

Wandsworth Stop the War

Wandsworth Stop the War has a number of items planned for the run-up to the national demonstration on 19th March.

On February 1st we plan to have an interfaith meeting to see what the congregations in the various churches and mosques feel about the war in Iraq, and to get their support for the demo.

On 12th March we will have an open-topped bus to go around various sites in Wandsworth where we will have members of Stop the War Coalition manning stalls and giving out leaflets to advertise the demo; also there will be petitions and other leaflets. It is possible, but unlikely, that the bus will go to Wimbledon, but if anyone would like to help on any of the stalls, he or she would be very welcome. On the bus will be banners and people with loudspeakers asking people to come on the demo.

On March 13th we plan to have a public meeting about the war, the demo, and the plight of Babar Ahmad, a young Tooting man who has been arrested on the charge of pro-Iraq activities. It is hoped to have representatives of military families who are against the war and the occupation. George Galloway is to be asked to speak at the meeting, but this has not been confirmed yet.

On the 19th there might be a Wandsworth StW feeder march, but this has also not yet been decided.

Leading up to the 19th, local unions will be contacted to get their support and also asked for donations to help pay for the bus. Also we will be leafleting at local schools and colleges.

Julie Higgins

Bush inauguration — US Embassy protest

It was a very moving, even inspirational experience to be part of the Silent Candlelit protest which was held outside the US Embassy on 20th January, to mark the inauguration of George Bush’s presidency. I arrived to find a crowd already assembled with candles held aloft, at least one hundred of them, each one representing one thousand Iraqis killed in the war.

We stood quietly for nearly an hour, then in complete silence for two minutes, while a wreath and coffin were placed outside the embassy. There were no shouted slogans, just a very dignified calm which somehow said it all.

Maisie Carter

Iraq: A Silenced Majority

This is the title of an interesting article forwarded here recently from the US (see or contact 8543 0362 for full version).

Stephan Smith (Stephan Said) is an Iraqi American artist and activist whose song “The Bell” or “Daquat al Nakous” has become an anthem for the global antiwar movement. He writes:

“Since my return from this fall’s busy touring schedule, I have been able to reach my family in Iraq regularly for the first time since the beginning of the war. One of the most important things we can do for them, and for the people of Iraq, is to counteract the unjust dehumanization of their entire nation of people, by giving voice to the silenced majority there who want peace....

“When I reached my cousin Omar at home in Baghdad last week, he said his father had been stranded in Mosul since the siege on Fallujah. Ghazi had gone to our family home there to be with my aunts Zeineb and Butheina for Ramadan. He told my father that when the siege on Fallujah began and the “freedom fighting” (or “insurgency” as it is called in the American media) spread to Mosul, the whole town shut down, everyone too afraid to go out, no businesses open, as though the place were deserted. Speaking with my father from their family home, Ghazi reported that now conditions are so bad, that the vast majority wishes Saddam Hussein were back in was better then, even for the majority who either endured or tolerated, as my family, but did not support the Baathist regime....

“From scant reports and video that leak past the mainstream embargo on images from Iraq, we can only assume that Fallujah has been leveled like Dresden was in the 2nd World War.... the total $82 million magnanimously pledged by the US to rebuild the city would scarcely be enough to rebuild more than a couple of these churches alone.

“But the truth is, Fallujah’s damage is far worse than meets the eye. The entire city could very well be a permanently uninhabitable radioactive zone, yet we hear about the noble efforts of the US to move the 250-300,000 inhabitants back in to live in the now poisoned homes, water, earth, and air.... My friend Dennis Kyne... a Gulf War II vet and former Fort Benning medic, was trained by our government to detect radiation sickness from Depleted Uranium in American soldiers using the weapons the government itself had given them to use. Why are the top administration and military officers in the US knowingly allowing irreparable, widespread, and lethal contamination of Iraq to occur? Is it intentional?...

“It is an understatement to say that the Iraqi and Mesopotamian struggle to be free of forced rule has a long history. The giant-sized presidential campaign posters of interim prime minister and US-backed former Saddam Hussein strongman Ayad Allawi, shown going up around Baghdad on today’s cover of the New York Times, don’t fool the citizens of a politically evolved society. The average Iraqi citizen is much more aware of the workings of power in politics and media than their Fox-News addicted American counterparts. Iraq is a land where Democracy has its oldest roots, where Hammurabi’s code of law pre-existed Moses, and came 1,700 years before Christ, where Christianity, and subsequently Mohammedism, became popular as revolutions against economic imperialism 2,000 years ago, where the Ottoman Empire led the world in religious tolerance in the days when Europe and its foundling United States were in the throws of Inquisitions and Puritanism. This is a land where war, after war, after war, has been waged for the cause of economic imperialism since the beginning of time, while the majority of families huddled with their children in their basements, waiting for God to bring an end to greed, once and for all.

“My father and uncle have told me over and over again how in their childhood, their friends were Shia, Kurdish, Jewish, that they lived in the same neighborhoods together without incident, indeed even with joy. They insist, knowingly, that their cultural landscape has become increasingly violently divided by domestic and foreign imperialist power which needs to divide to conquer, and keep the nation under control for the interests of power....

“From this perspective, the American military, the Baathists, Ariel Sharon and Likkud Israel, Bin Laden, al Sadr, or Saddam Hussein, are all cousins in an endless parade of foot soldiers for the same problem: the system of economic dominance we all live under that requires oppression. When I asked my family what they thought was the only way to peace in Iraq, they answered, ‘the only way for peace in Iraq, or on earth now, is through a total revolution in society.... in which real equality brings an end to this entire unjust way in which we all live together’. ”

CND Return to Newsletter index