A national demonstration “End the occupation of Iraq — bring the troops home” has been called for Saturday March 19th — assembling at 1pm Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park (Marble Arch), once again jointly promoted by CND, Stop the War and the Muslim Association of Britain. WDC/CND will be distributing 1,000 leaflets in the next few weeks. (Potential leafleters please contact 8543-0362). Wandsworth Stop the War has chartered an open top bus on Saturday March 12th to advertise the demonstration.
Coincidentally, as I was clearing my desk recently, I came across the official apologia for the Iraq War. Minister Mike O’Brien, writing in March 2003, hopes that this FCO document will give me “a more comprehensive understanding of our current thinking”. The document makes most amusing reading in the light of what we now know, and I reprint sections verbatim as a salutary reminder of the degree to which the government attempted to mislead.
The Government understands that there is concern about military action. The decision to join a coalition of governments in military action against Iraq, supported by a majority in the House of Commons on 18 March, was undertaken as a last resort. The Iraqi regime’s refusal to co-operate left us with no option. The purpose of our military action is to ensure once and for all the disarmament of Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery as required by United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1441 and previous resolutions. The coalition’s intention is to do this as quickly as possible and to keep Iraqi civilian casualties to a minimum. In the longer term we want to ensure a better future for the Iraqi people and to achieve greater stability internationally.
Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been central to Saddam Hussein‘ s dictatorship since the 1980s. He has amassed poisons, viruses and bacteria and pursued a nuclear weapons capability, in flagrant disregard of UNSCRs and Iraq’s obligations as a non-nuclear weapon state under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In contravention of UNSCRs, Iraq has been developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering these weapons to targets throughout the Middle East and even in south-east Europe. All this is set out in the detailed paper that we published in September[....]
Throughout this crisis we have considered the options carefully with our allies, taking account of the circumstances, such as the potential wider impact on the region, and the need to act in accordance with international law. Military action to enforce Iraqi compliance is fully in accordance with international law: authority to use force against Iraq exists from the combined effect of UNSCRs 678, 687 and 1441; and all of these resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows the use of force for the express purpose of restoring international peace and security. Every possible care is being taken to minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
We will work to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people are met[....]
We envisage a leading role for the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq. We want to see the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, when a new government is in place willing to disarm Iraq of WMD, and to ensure that oil revenues are used for the benefit of the Iraqi people. We look forward to an Iraq where there is respect for human rights and the rule of law, where all Iraqis have the opportunity to share in the country’s wealth, an Iraq at peace with its neighbours and which can play a full role in the international community.
In May 2005 State Parties (i.e. the 188 countries which have signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) will gather in New York to review the implementaion of the treaty for the seventh time since its entry into force in 1970. According to an analysis by the Oxford Research Group (http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org) and BASIC (http://www.basicint.org) there is a stark choice confronting the international community: either a breakthrough is made at the 2005 Review Conference or the NPT may be declared bust at the end of it.
The ORG and BASIC analysis lists the following objectives for a successful outcome at the 2005 Review: clear and unambiguous progress on
Non-nuclear weapons states will have to balance their ‘inalienable’ right to develop nuclear technology by an acceptance of the further restrictions and controls necessary to prevent latent proliferation. Nuclear weapons states will have to accept that there are no opt-out clauses from the obligations of the NPT to “actively pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith”. The status quo will only serve to further build resentment and retrenchment. All must move beyond their usual rhetoric if practical progress is to be made.
Dr El-Baradei (Director General IAEA) has signposted the way forward:
“The earlier we focus on collective security reform, the earlier we can move towards agreement on strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty and towards a concrete programme of verified, irreversible nuclear disarmament, complete with a timetable. Such a course of action could be achieved in the context of a protocol to the present NPT. Once in force this new framework should be regarded as a ‘peremptory norm’ of international law — in short, it should be enduring and permanent.”†
[† ‘Preserving the Non-Proliferation Treaty’, Mohammed El-Baradei, Disarmament Forum UNIDIR four 2004.]
As a footnote to the above, I recently had the interesting experience of a meeting with David Broucher (now retired, but until Sept. 2004 UK Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva). I came to the conclusion that the diplomatic mindset bears no relation to the thought processes of ordinary people. David Broucher’s emphasis was all on the process (rules of procedure, agendas etc) combined with a total refusal to be drawn into any discussion of the big picture context of it all. The different countries’ ‘linkages’ are preventing the Conference of Disarmament from getting back to work: China wants to link disarmament issues with outer space, the Non-Aligned countries want to link disarmament with discussions on nuclear disarmament, and smaller countries with negative security assurances etc. This is the breath of life to the professional diplomat and goes a long way towards explaining the total failure of existing modes of international communication to deliver real progress towards a less dangerous world.
Coloured Kerchiefs are the ‘Bunte Tüche’ of the German peace flag campaign which was outlined in the December/January WDC/CND newsletter. Have you designed your personal peace flag yet? A square of old sheet, a man-size handkerchief, an unused knitted white dishcloth... any of these would provide an easy base for your creativity. Your personal peace message will then be sent to New York (with thousands of others from across Europe) to be displayed in front of the UN headquarters in New York at the beginning of the vital NPT Review Conference.
Merton schools have been invited to participate. I can supply background information if anyone has contacts as parent, teacher, governor or neighbour, and could promote the idea in their local school. Please send your finished flags to 43 Wilton Grove by Easter for dispatch to Germany.
A public meeting will be held at the House of Commons on Wednesday March 2nd (Committee Room 10, hosted by Jim Dobbin M.P.) with speakers including Gareth Peirce, Gillian Slovo, James Welsh (Legal Director of Liberty), Simon Hughes M.P., Richard Harvey (Chair of Haldane Society), Paddy Hillyard (Queens University, Belfast) and Saghir Hussein (lawyer and Stop Political Terror).
Charles Clarke’s new proposals for ‘civil control orders’ on terrorist suspects, punishing individuals for what they might do, not what they have done, pave the way for politically-motivated restrictions. Bob Marshall Andrews M.P. and QC has described the proposals as “the most substantial extension of the state’s executive powers in 300 years... reminiscent of Apartheid-era banning orders, they are a measure more associated with dictatorships rather than democracies.”
Anti-terror measures promote a politics of fear and a culture of suspicion towards entire communities. Lord Hoffman said in his December judgment that there is “no state of public emergency threatening the life of the nation” (the only basis for justifying internment, which requires an opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights).
The meeting is called by CAMPACC (the Campaign against Criminalising Communities).
A groundbreaking new report by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), detailing the pervasive military presence within science and technology in the UK, was launched at Parliament on 19th January.
The report examines developments from the end of the Cold War to the “War on Terror” and demonstrates that the military still has considerable influence over science and technology. A full 30% of all public spending on R&D in the UK is funded by the Ministry of Defence, dwarfing that spent by, eg, the National Health Service. A new generation of multi-million pound military partnerships has been developed involving UK universities, and these groups pursue high technology, largely weapons-based research in a climate of commercialisation and secrecy.
The report details four case studies on: new nuclear weapons; nanotechnology; biological sciences; and the “Missile Defense” programme. These show that much military science and technology helps to narrow thinking on security issues, focusing on the use of military technology while marginalising attempts to understand and tackle the roots of conflict. The report argues that more balanced funding of science and technology, which would include more resources directed towards solving global environmental and social problems (eg climate change, clean water and sanitation, resource depletion), would have greater benefits, including in terms of global security.
This report is particularly timely. The UK government has recently announced plans to boost spending on a high-technology military over the next five years, while US spending on military objectives is soaring.
Dr Philip Webber, SGR Chair, said that: “The report reveals a new military-industrial complex of the 21st century — military-led funding of exotic technologies and hi-tech weaponry rather than technology to address pressing social and human needs. This situation can only lead to greater long-term insecurity and needs to be challenged.”
Alison Williams attended and will provide further details upon request. It is essential to get this information to as wide an audience as possible so please forward the web address to any interested contacts: http://www.sgr.org.uk/
Thanks to Alison Williams for the latest light bulb joke from the USA:
Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its condition is improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are illusional spin from the liberal media. Illuminating rooms is hard work. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effort. Why do you hate freedom?