Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are at last firmly back on the media agenda and we must make the most of it in our campaigning. Write to your M.P. (House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA), write to the papers, join in radio phone-ins, talk to your friends and colleagues. And take up the CND Ten Signatures Pledge: a ‘NO Trident Replacement’ form is enclosed with this Newsletter. CND hopes to be able to present over 320,000 signatures to Tony Blair at Downing Street on 14th July. Most of us won’t emulate George Marsh who stood in the hot sunshine at Wimbledon Village Fair and single-handedly collected nearly sixty signatures, but every little helps, so use your petition form and get it back to CND as soon as possible.
This is the title of CND Chair Kate Hudson’s editorial in the latest issue of Campaign, the CND membership magazine. CND has learned that when the US was updating contingency plans for an attack on Iran it ruled out the use of RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire (used in the war on Iraq), citing UK opposition to an attack on Iran as the reason. And secondly, the US has reportedly decided not to site interceptor missiles for its Missile Defence system in the UK because of anti-war sentiment, and “also no doubt the activities of those dedicated campaigners at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill”.
On Friday 30th June the Commons all-party Defence Select Committee published its report ‘The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the Strategic Context’, and despite the deliberately narrow terms of reference which were chosen, and despite the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to give evidence, this is a much more hard-hitting document than most of us were expecting. The committee asks a lot of very pertinent questions demanding that the government come clean about the rationale behind Trident, warns the government not to make up its mind about a Trident replacement in secret, and calls for a full public debate.
For further information see the committee website: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/defence_committee.cfm
The series of four lunch-time meetings organised last month by Alison Williams of Merton UNA looked at four aspects of the work of the UN: development, security, environment and law, and the inter-relationships between them. Alison supplied background briefing papers every week and led the wide-ranging discussions. We realised how many different UN agencies are involved, and how increasingly these are working directly with local communities rather than with governments.
June saw the first meeting of the new Human Rights Council in Geneva (which will be required to conduct a regular review of the human rights records of all countries, beginning with the 47 elected members of the Council) and also the historic inaugural sessions of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. “There are few issues on which there is greater consensus or higher expectations than on the responsibility of the United Nations to help states and societies recover from the devastation of war,” said the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The Ambassador of Angola has been elected Chairman of the Commission’s Organisational Committee, and Burundi and Sierra Leone (two countries which have made much progress in emerging from devastating civil conflicts but which continue to face great political and economic challenges) are the first to be referred to the Commission.
The work of the UN rarely features in the UK media and Alison’s workshops are invaluable. A new series is planned for the autumn.
Participants at the final workshop jointly signed a letter to the new leader of Merton Council urging that the Council should debate the propriety of the local libraries’ making exhibition space available to campaigning groups in Merton, providing only that political balance is maintained over the course of each year: “We have become aware of the increasingly important rôle of non-governmental organisations and civil society in the modern UN, questioning and challenging the once all-powerful nation states, and are proud to be a small part of an international democratic process. We see a clear deficit in Merton’s local democracy in that there is no community space for the exchange of information and ideas on campaigning issues and we feel that this should be a function of Merton’s Library Service.”
Christian CND has just published a small booklet containing transcriptions of the presentations given by three eminent theologians at the CCND Theology Day School in Oxford on February 25th (see report in our March newsletter), so I can now quote verbatim the wonderful tongue-in-cheek prayer offered by Father Gerry Hughes SJ to illustrate his concept of “split spirituality” which has the effect of keeping God firmly out of the ordinary details of most day to day lives:
Dear Lord, inspire our scientists that they may invent more lethal weaponry, because the more lethal it is the more effectively it will deter. Preserve us from any unfortunate accident in its testing, lest Chernobyl becomes a sideshow in comparison with the devastation that might ensue. Bless our economy that we may put these weapons into plentiful production, otherwise they will fail to deliver. Have a special care of the poor, the sick, the hungry and the aged of our own and of other lands until such time as our defence commitments enable us to contribute a little more to these good purposes. Strengthen our leaders in a strong defence policy. Drive out from our midst any who by thought, word or deed undermine our national security and grant us the protection of nuclear weaponry now and forever. Amen.
Presumably George Bush and Tony Blair, both of whom profess to be Christians, suffer from this sort of moral schizophrenia.
We have several copies of the excellent campaign pack “Don’t Replace Trident” prepared by Quaker Peace & Social Witness which provides ideal material for discussion. I was recently invited to talk to a small group from the United Reformed Church and would very happily talk to similar groups. Let me know if your church or organisation would like a speaker.
The weather was perfect on June 24th. We flew Peace flags from our new gazebo, we had a team of willing helpers, and our stall took a record total of more than £200. Even more encouraging was the atmosphere of palpable goodwill surrounding our customers and visitors.
Many thanks to Julie, Joanna and family, Ann, Sue, Bob, Kathleen, Helen, George and Maxi, and also to Maisie, Ann and Margaret who pre-sorted all the books.
At the end of May we said goodbye to long-standing members Ann and Kurt as they moved up to Yorkshire. Ann writes that their new bungalow is beginning to feel like home “but still very odd, as if we are really on holiday and will be going back before long”, and she sends best wishes to all.
Ann worked tirelessly for WDC/CND for many years with loyal support from Kurt. She served as a wonderfully efficient Minutes Secretary, conscientiously attending almost all meetings, and joined with myself in raising plants for the Fête of the Earth and regular summer stalls. As Quakers, Ann and Kurt were founder members of the Wimbledon Vigil for Peace. We wish them a long and happy retirement; they will be much missed.Joanna Bazley
Farnborough International sells itself as an air show and family day out. But the public days are preceded by a full trade exhibition for aerospace and military products, and Campaign Against the Arms Trade is organising a peaceful protest on the first of these trade days. They will be highlighting the way that the UK government subsidises the arms trade through the DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation) and the fact that around 90% of the victims of modern warfare are civilians, many of them children, which makes Farnborough’s ‘International Youth Day’ especially cynical.
Details: http://www.caat.org.uk/events or 020 7281 0297
On Saturday 1st July Dr Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima and President of International Mayors for Peace, arrives in the UK with a delegation of international city leaders. Reading Borough Council will host a lunch-time reception and after a briefing on developments at Aldermaston, the group will travel out to view the AWE site. Dr Akiba will talk to Ken Livingstone on 3rd July, followed by a press conference, and then meet with Foreign Office officials to urge the government to fulfil its disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the evening Dr Akiba meets M.P.s at the House of Commons before addressing a public meeting starting at 7pm.
Meanwhile in Wimbledon our usual Peace Table will take place on August 5th outside the Library. On August 6th at 8·30pm we shall be holding our annual candle-floating ceremony on Rushmere when we remind ourselves of the reality of the world’s first nuclear bomb, remember the ordinary people who died and re-dedicate ourselves to our campaign. It is always very beautiful and moving and everybody is welcome.
The WDC/CND website, located at http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk, provides background campaigning material to members, such as the full text of relevant documents, and gives details of events arranged by other organisations in the peace movement. Last month our site was updated to provide an RSS feed. This technology, as used by the BBC and other news websites, allows subscribers to be notified via a brief summary sent to their computer whenever new material appears on the site, instead of requiring them to visit regularly to see if anything has changed. A number of programs exist which can display RSS feeds, including several leading web browsers; more details are available via the website itself, at http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk/rss/ .
The full text of this Newsletter is available on the website each month, as well as a selection of the past year’s back issues. Printed copies of the Newsletter are also available in large print format to any members who would find this useful — just ask!
The Secretary’s Report covered the work of the group during the year, which included joint activities with other organisations including UNA and Stop the War; participation in local events such as Wimbledon Village Fair and the Lions Club Fair; our own Fête of the Earth, which raised lots of money and was attended by many members and friends; ‘Jo Wilding in Iraq’ public meeting and film; Concert and Poems for Peace with Deborah Fink and group members; and a meeting where Ben Studd spoke on Venezuela. Members have worked for and participated in national Stop the War and Palestine demonstrations, various London and local events, the premiere of the Rachel Corrie cantata at the Hackney Empire, Stop the War conferences, London Region CND, a Kingston Peace Council public meeting and the local UNA lectures given by Alison Williams. The Hiroshima Day candle floating and peace picnic and the re-dedication of the Cannizaro cherry tree in October succeeded in involving interfaith groups and attracting some press publicity. The monthly Peace Table has continued with a break during the very cold weather and the weekly vigil has been maintained throughout the year, with new members and contacts being made.
Result of elections to the Committee:
There is a vacancy for the position of Minutes Secretary (volunteers please!)
On June 1st former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix presented UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan with a final report recommending 60 steps for reducing global dangers posed by biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The Swedish government established the independent Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission in December 2003. After two years of work, the commission concluded that “there has been a serious, and dangerous, loss of momentum and direction in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts”.
BASIC Nuclear Update, June 2006