Publication of the government’s White Paper on the future of Trident is expected in early December, and press reports strongly indicate that the most likely nuclear option for this country is an extension of the existing system, thus avoiding quite such a blatant contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as would be constituted by an entirely new or upgraded weapons system. Perhaps we have our campaigning to thank for the fact that the government shows even this much sensitivity to its treaty obligations.
The publication of a White Paper rather than a Green Paper indicates that all decisions have essentially already been taken. The forthcoming parliamentary vote will be a whipped affair giving the government (with Conservative support) a comfortable majority. This does not however mean that the debate ends here. The publicity generated by the White Paper and the parliamentary debate gives us the best possible opportunity to get our message across to the general public. Ultimately politicians do listen to majority opinion. Remember, we know nothing of the real Gordon Brown, and what about the prospect of a new ‘green’ Conservative Party?
For the energetic there is the Aldermaston Advent vigil [see below]. For the rest of us it is time for letter-writing, radio phone-ins and debates in churches and clubs.
The government hasn’t even waited for the conclusion of the enquiries of the Defence Select Committee into the future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. There seems no obvious reason for the rush to make this decision, other than Tony Blair’s personal compulsion to make it part of his ‘legacy’.
Points to make in your letters include suggestions that Tony Blair:
or e-mail via http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/page821.asp
Copies should be sent to your M.P. if possible, at: House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
And don’t forget the local paper!
[Based on information from Aldermaston Women’s Peace Campaign, http://www.aldermaston.net]
Christian CND invites all faiths and none to join them at their Advent Vigil at the Tadley Gate on the A340 (parking opposite). Contact Caroline 01865 241 290 or e-mail christians@cndUK.org if you need help with transport.
Membership Secretary Muriel Wood sends her thanks to all who responded promptly to the annual call for subs. Please will those who have not yet paid do it now, while you think of it. Subscriptions are still only £4 (£2 concessions) and cheques are payable to WDC/CND. Send to the Membership Secretary, 53 Pepys Rd, London SW20 8NL.
On October 22nd, Sacred Heart hosted a meeting of the Wimbledon Interfaith Group with two speakers from the Israeli/Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum. Robi Damelin, an Israeli of South African background, had lost a son; Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian, had lost a brother. Robi’s son was on checkpoint duty when he was killed by a Palestinian sniper; Ali’s brother was killed by an Israeli soldier near his home. Robi had always been a peace activist; Ali was persuaded to become one after a time of violent resistance and a prison sentence. As spearheading voices of the Forum, they share platforms across Israel/Palestine, Europe and the United States. As Robi said, the presence of an Israeli and a Palestinian together on a platform has a powerful impact in itself, and their personal stories — as was evident that evening — move people deeply.
Their joint message can be summarised in two sentences: to outsiders, don’t be “pro-Israeli” or “pro-Palestinian”; be pro both peoples in their search for peace and security. And to the parties in conflict, don’t get bogged down in historical, political or theological disputation of rights and wrongs — stop killing each other. Forgiveness and reconciliation may come after a long period of dialogue to build understanding and trust. But first the violence must stop.
The UK-based Friends of the Bereaved Families Forum welcome new members. Subscriptions of £10 (cheques payable to FBFF) should be sent to the Hon. Treasurer at 5 Temple Close, Cyprus Road, London N3 3SB. Further information may be found on their website, http://www.FamiliesForum.co.uk.
Report by Alison Williams
...goes to Edwin and Aden who stepped into the breach and took our CND stall to the Party for Peace at the Bedford in Balham on November 26th at very short notice. The music was good and with Bruce Kent as guest speaker the Trident debate was well to the fore. Keep your eyes open for the next P4P event.
“The cold war has ended, and any justification for nuclear weapons has ended with it. As the world wakes up to the irrelevance of nuclear weapons in today’s world, and as Christian people start asking our government to honour the commitment it made.... we have an opportunity to initiate a campaign to reduce the horrifying stockpile of nuclear weapons that endangers our world.” (Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell in The Door, Oxford Diocese newspaper)
“We urge the government of the UK not to invest in a replacement for the Trident system and to begin now the process of decommissioning these weapons with the intention of diverting the sums spent on nuclear weaponry to programmes of aid and development.” (The major Scottish Churches’ petition to the Prime Minister)
“The Baptist Union Council opposes the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system and urges the UK government to take leadership in disarmament negotiations in order to bring about the intentions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.” (Baptist Union Council, 13–15 November 2006)
“What can be said about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? This point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions and strive for progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 1st January 2006)
Guardian Cryptic Crossword Nº 23,936, set by ‘Gordius’:
24 across: Intent to get shot of useless weaponry (7)
Barbara represented WDC/CND at this high-powered conference at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies on November 8th and has sent the following report:
I came away from this with the feeling that I had been on a trip to the Middle East. It was a sharp lesson in geography and political reality, with speakers from Iran, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain bringing into relief the perils and fears of the thousands of inhabitants of this dangerous part of the world.
Professor Al-Mani of the Gulf Co-operation Council pointed out that “four destructive wars had led to a regional arms race robbing people in the region of valuable economic resources” and talked of the reliance of thousands on the purity of the waters of the Gulf for daily essentials of living. He also pointed to the “looming environment dangers” of Israel’s ageing nuclear reactor at Dimona, to which the international regulatory body has no access.
The failure of the nuclear weapons states to make even a gesture towards their commitments under the NPT had resulted in much cynicism. In spite of this, Egypt (a signatory to the “New Agenda Coalition”) held to the view that a WMD/Nuclear-free zone in the Middle East could still transform a precarious political situation, and might halt proliferation.
Dr Mousavian from Iran’s Centre for Strategic Research described the tortuous path by which it had taken 21 years of activity for the United Nations General Assembly to agree in 1995 a resolution for a NWFZ in the Middle East. Many Arab states had on this basis enthusiastically signed up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But by the summer of 2005 it had become clear that the nuclear weapons states had no intention of eliminating their own nuclear arsenals.
But Iran remains even now optimistic that the NWFZ has gained a momentum of its own. Dr Mousavian proposed a series of very specific steps which could, if followed, mark real progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons in the region. The process of negotiation itself might gradually result in a just solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict as well as bringing about the desired zone.
A subtle but pernicious way in which the Trident debate is being manipulated by the pro-nuclear lobby is by the almost universal adoption of the term “our independent nuclear deterrent” when referring to Trident. This form of words is rarely challenged in the media, even in anti-nuclear-leaning publications such as the Guardian. So, please take every opportunity to set the record straight.
A deterrent? Deter whom, and from what? Missiles are useless against real threats (terrorism, the perils of climate change, pandemics) and history shows that tin-pot dictators, guerrillas and insurgents have been supremely unimpressed by the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals.
The idea that Trident is in any way independent of the USA is a sick joke. Trident is US-supplied and US-controlled (via its satellite system). The UK contribution is to build the submarines.
So we have in Trident a Weapon of Mass Destruction (just like states aspiring to join the nuclear club) — don’t let people forget it.
Some of the People all of the Time, ISBN 1 84624 056 by Alastair Mackie (£11·87 from Amazon, or available from good bookshops)
Many readers will remember Air Commodore Alastair Mackie as an elderly and sprightly public speaker in the 1980s. Now in extreme old age he has published an autobiography which covers reflections on a substantial section of the 20th century. Mackie was an H-bomber pilot twice decorated in war and twice again in peace, who left his RAF career early because he disagreed with British and NATO defence policy, in particular with what he described as “Britain’s idiotic nuclear so-called deterrent”.