COMMENT by Joanna BazleyThere have been encouraging indications recently that Tony Blair’s desire to replace Trident by another ‘independent’ nuclear weapons system will not go unchallenged amongst major opinion-formers both inside and outside Parliament. (The issue is, however, unlikely to be put to a vote amongst MPs.)
Michael Portillo went on record as questioning the wisdom of such a decision over the weekend of 18th–19th June, claiming that “the case for an independent deterrent disappeared with the USSR” and Robin Cook was interviewed on the subject at length on Radio 4’s PM programme on June 22nd. Robin Cook came across as measured and unemotional in a series of carefully considered points:
He summed up by saying that he cannot see a current threat justifying retaining Trident and that it would take a very pressing threat indeed to justify the enormous expenditure. In other words “cost and principle go together”.
- Whom are we defending ourselves against?
- We must take on board the international dimension of any decision about UK nuclear weapons, and operate within the context of our Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments.
- There is a hard-headed, tough economic case for allowing Trident (“now showing its age”) to reach the end of its operational life without planning a replacement: replacing Trident would absorb the equivalent of a whole year’s defence budget and we should consider whether there are not higher priorities within the armed services as a whole.
- British troops are experienced and well-disciplined, and are potentially invaluable as peacekeepers. Could this not be seen as Britain’s most appropriate world rôle?
This could be the beginnings of a non-politically-partisan debate led by thinkers from all parties.
Campaign Statement from National CND
In August 1945 the US dropped nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The cities were obliterated, 250,000 people were killed and generations poisoned by radiation.
The use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity. In May 2000, the nuclear weapons states agreed on an ‘unequivocal undertaking’ to accomplish the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Yet even now, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still threaten the survival of the world.
The US-led illegal assault on Iraq was backed by the threat of nuclear attack. The administration has also declared a nuclear ‘hit list’ of over 15 countries it is prepared to use its nuclear weapons against.
Britain has 200 nuclear warheads. Each warhead has eight times the power of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima.
We are deeply concerned that, rather than taking steps to eliminate its nuclear arsenal, the British government:
These developments undermine international treaty obligations, global stability and peace and make the use of nuclear weapons more likely.
- Has begun developments at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston which could lead to the production of a new generation of nuclear weapons.
- Has a first strike nuclear policy, even against non-nuclear weapons states.
- Is planning a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons system.
As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are calling on the government:
- to make a commitment that the UK will neither use, threaten to use nor develop nuclear weapons, and
- to take immediate steps for their abolition.
National CND is calling for the widest possible endorsement of this statement, so please contact your local union (or other campaigning organisation) and ask them for their support. Please also ask for personal support from councillors, community and religious leaders with whom you have contact.
Hiroshima Events in Wimbledon and London
This year is the 60th Anniversary of the world’s first atomic bomb which destroyed the city of Hiroshima in August 1945. We shall be holding a special Peace Table on August 6th near Wimbledon Library (10·30am onwards) at which we shall be inviting members of the public to sign a giant card to Tony Blair calling on the UK to honour its obligations under the NPT: please come and add your signature! In the evening (8·30pm) we shall be holding what is now our traditional launch of floating candles on Rushmere, Wimbledon Common, a ceremony which is both beautiful and very moving, and we hope to see lots of you there.
For those who can get up to London, the Tavistock Square Commemoration (12 noon) includes a special programme of appropriate songs organised by the Workers’ Music Association who extend a warm welcome to all to join them at their rehearsals starting on July 7th.
US tactical nuclear weapons are stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, all non-nuclear signatories to the NPT, and, of course, in Britain.
NATO does not publish details of the deployments, despite its members pledging to openness in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
Russia has said it will negotiate an agreement to control tactical nuclear weapons only on condition that those weapons are not deployed outside the countries that possess them.
Please write to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Headquarters, Blvd Leopold III, 1110 Brussels, Belgium, <email@example.com...>. It will be a 42p stamp.
Points to make:
- 15 years after the end of the Cold War, there is no military justification for the continuing deployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe;
- in order to be transparent and make the withdrawal verifiable, NATO member states should confirm whether or not US tactical nuclear weapons are based in their countries, and, if so, how many;
- the presence of these weapons in Europe is making agreement with Russia on their control and elimination impossible;
- involvement of non-nuclear countries, which have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in NATO planning is not compatible with efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
From Jenny Maxwell, coordinator of West Midlands CND letter-writing campaign.
(E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org...> if you would like to be a regular member of this team.)
You Too Can Sing
The singers of the Workers’ Music Association will be taking part in the forthcoming commemorative event to be held in Tavistock Square at noon on 6th August, 2005, marking the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb.
Special songs are being prepared to illustrate this event, and you too can join in. Three of these have particular interest. One is a fascinating setting of the actual words which Mordecai Vanunu smuggled out from his internment, “The Sacrifice”. Another compares the Esso advertisement of the Tiger in the Tank, with G. W. Bush’s war policy, in words produced by Greenpeace, (a parody on Tyger Tyger, by William Blake)
Another song “Against the Atom Bomb” is by the Japanese author, Kinoshita, and graphically expresses the determination that another bomb shall never be used.
Included in the programme is a striking Round, “No more Iraqs”, written specially to express the feelings of us all about the current situation, and then, of course, the much-loved, traditional “The H-Bomb’s Thunder (Ban the Bomb)” dating back from the great Aldermaston marches of former years.
To ensure a wide participation in the singing of these appropriate songs at this 60th anniversary meeting, the MWA has planned five Thursday evening practices to lead up to the event, starting on Thursday July 7th, at 7.30 p.m. at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1.
Secretary Anne Schuman, 020 8699 1933
Choir leaders: Aubrey Bowman 020 8346 1429
Nita McCrossan 020 7499 0950
Famous Peacemaker To Talk At Westminster Cathedral
An Israeli Catholic priest who is one of the Middle East’s great prophets of peace will be speaking on 7 July at Vaughan House, behind Westminster Cathedral.
Fr Abuna Elias Chacour, a Melkite Catholic priest, is a world-famous ambassador of non-violence in his troubled land.
At the age of eight, he was evicted, along with the rest of his village, by the Israeli authorities from his village in Galilee. But rather than turn to violence, he became a priest with a mission to reconcile Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel. In 1982, he began the project for which he is famous — a high school in Ibillin, where he has been parish priest since 1965.
Uniquely in Israel, the 4,000 pupils at the school of Mar Elias are drawn from all three communities — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Across the world the school is studied as an example of the possibilities of future peaceful coexistence. Fr Chacour now has plans to open what he calls “the first Arab Christian Israeli University”.
“Either we stop claiming to be children of Abraham or we act as brothers and try to reconcile,” he once said. “And reconciliation cannot be in the form of slave and lord, powerful and powerless.”
Fr Chacour is an inspiring figure and compelling speaker, who has authored two acclaimed books: Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land.
The talk, entitled Blessed are the Peace Makers, will be held on July 7th, 5.30pm, at Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street SW1P 1QN. Everyone is welcome and admission is free but pre-booking is advised for seating purposes.
Please contact Danny Curtin (<dannycurtin@rcdo...> 020 7931 6077) of Pax Christi.
In Larger Freedom
Alison Williams (Merton UNA) led a very informative series of workshops last month at which this important report by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, was fully discussed.
The report has been presented to all governments of the world together with Kofi Annan’s recommendations. It consitutes “an agenda to move our world decisively towards three important goals: halving poverty in the next 10 years; reducing the threat of war, terrorism and deadly weapons; and advancing human dignity in every land”. World leaders are asked to take concrete decisions when they meet at a summit in New York in September, so governments have several months to consider. Alison told us that UNA headquarters was pleased that we in Merton were giving the Report serious attention, and had asked us to report back our ideas and opinions to be fed into a forthcoming UNA report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Kofi Annan writes “What I have called for here is possible. It is within reach. From pragmatic beginnings could come a visionary change of direction in our world. That is our opportunity and our challenge.” He makes it clear that ‘cherry-picking’ by governments will lead to nothing at all, and that his recommendations are all equally vital and achievable and must be taken “as a package”. Chief amongst these is that a “Peace Building Commission” should be established as a subsidiary body of the Security Council. Development, freedom and peace go hand in hand. “In today’s world no State however powerful can protect itself on its own. Likewise no country weak or strong can realise prosperity in a vacuum. We can and must act together.” “We only weaken our hand in fighting the horrors of extreme poverty or terrorism if in our efforts to do so we deny the very human rights these scourges take away from citizens.”
Wimbledon Village Fair
This took place in unbroken sunshine at the beginning of the June heatwave and was undoubtedly the biggest and best yet. We were afraid that our small stall might get swamped by the sheer scale of the event, but the crowds were huge and we took a very respectable £143; quite impressive from a ten-foot plot and more than last year.
We found ourselves placed next to the Soldiers, Sailors and Air Force Association, which caused some wry amusement (and interesting discussion) and it was encouraging to find a considerable interest in our campaigning materials and badges as well as in the plants, books and bric-à-brac. Thanks to all who helped with transport and got hot on the stall. It was a heroic effort.
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